- Image-heavy dating apps aren’t designed for genuine connection, and can make it difficult to find real relationships.
- As a result, dating app creators are experimenting with old-school dating methods.
- Video “speed dating” features, text-only profiles, and apps that ban in-app messaging have emerged recently.
- According to relationship therapists, apps didn’t create the dating problems seen with traditional image-focused apps, so new features can’t fix the problems modern daters face.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more.
After Nora, a 25-year-old media professional living in New York City, broke up with her longtime partner, she decided to make dating app profiles to get back in the dating game. She’d never used them before.
Soon, Nora, who asked to use her first name only for privacy reasons, had a “nice” in-app conversation with a guy who seemed like a good match: He too had a media job and Nora found him physically attractive. They decided to meet for an in-person date.
That’s when Nora’s perception of her online match completely changed.
“I realized he had a negative attitude about everything,” Nora told Insider, including the drink and sandwich he ordered, his job, and his hometown. “I realized I could never, ever be interested in someone with a pessimistic thing to say about everything, but I could have never discovered that just by looking at his profile and making small talk online.”
That wasn’t the first time a date Nora met through an app turned out to be strikingly different in person than online. Like many jaded dating app users, she thinks the way apps are designed – with fill-in-the-blank prompts that act as conversation-starters and image-heavy profiles that put the focus on appearances – inherently leads to mismatches.
“You create an idea of what you think this person is like in your head,” Nora said, “but being six-feet tall or from Boston isn’t a personality and it’s no real indication of compatibility.”
As a result, some app startups are betting on old-school dating techniques like face-to-face rendezvous and text-only personal ads to appeal to frustrated modern love seekers. But relationship experts told Insider they’re not convinced these methods are going to solve a core issue: dating to find love never has been an easy process, and technology can’t make it any more efficient.
- Chris Hondros / Getty
Some apps now have features that encourage, or only allow, face-to-face connections
Modern dating apps often keep users in their virtual worlds for so long that the excitement of the initial connection wears off, or users begin to believe they know their digital match on a deeper level than they really do. In an attempt to fix these problems, both existing platforms like exclusive members-only dating app The League, as well as new apps like Lex and Fourplay, are experimenting with various techniques to get users meeting or talking face to face.
The League, which launched in 2014, recently announced League Live, a feature where users can go on two-minute video “speed dates” with potential matches. Users opt into the feature and if the app “chooses” them, they go on three two-minute dates on Sunday nights with people deemed compatible by The League’s algorithm.
People who use League Live are four times more likely to match with someone than people who use the non-“speed dating” version of The League, according to an emailed statement from the League.
The new app Bounce also emphasizes face-to-face meetups. It allows users to “check-in” at specific locations as a way to say they’re interested in going on a date around that geographic area. Then, the app matches two users and sets up an in-person date for them.
Fourplay social, a new app that sets people up on double dates with friends, has a classic swiping feature at its core, but also requires all four people who will be going on the date to opt in.
“You might regret choosing a date over other plans, but you’ll never regret a night out with your friend,” Julie Griggs, one of the app’s co-founders, said in a press release. “When we thought about that, the obvious solution was staring us right in the face: double date!”
A new app for queer people is drawing on the classic appeal of personal ads
Lex, a new dating app for the queer community, takes another old-school approach by allowing people to scroll through a feed of personal ad-style call-outs, whether they’re looking for dates or just a new friend to hang out with. People who use Lex can’t post photos, so the connections have to go beyond physical appearances.
“It’s bringing back the old-school way of reading personal ads, reading how people describe themselves, slowing down,” Kelli Rakowski, the founder of Lex, told the Guardian. “It’s a gentler, more thoughtful way of getting to know someone.”
Insider reporter Canela Lopez tried the app and had a mostly optimistic report. “Overall, the callback to photo-less personal ad format forced me to actually be mindful of the people I was messaging and made the conversations I was having feel a bit more meaningful from the beginning,” they wrote.
Apps aren’t the root cause of modern dating difficulties, but they may contribute to it
- Johnce/Getty Images
The messaging-based nature of all apps can contribute to a false sense of intimacy “because you’re not getting feedback or getting the person’s reaction, tone of voice, or facial expression,” therapist Kelly Scott told Insider.
Plus, classic dating-app features like disappearing matches, an endless supply of options, and the experience of getting a match and feeling special can make dating feel “like a less organic process and more like a game one can ‘beat’ if they play it right,” Megan Bruneau, a relationship therapist and executive coach, told Insider.
But dating apps didn’t create these problems, and a few updates can’t fix them, both therapists said.
“I think whether a person treats dating as a ‘game’ or not is more a reflection of a person’s motives for dating, which can happen on and offline,” Bruneau said. “So we can’t blame online dating for ‘players,’ or people who date without integrity or respect.”
“There are inherent pros and cons to dating apps as a way of finding love, just as there are inherent pros and cons to meeting someone at 4 AM at a taco stand after the bar as a way of finding love.”
Either way, she said, dating apps aren’t good or bad. They’re “a modern way of making connections,” and a new breed of dating apps and in-app features is unlikely to change the frivolity of human nature.